Hospice and euthanasia
A major goal of horse hospice care is to neither hasten nor prolong the dying process, while providing for the greatest possible comfort of the dying individual. This requires that the horse’s condition is correctly recognized as being terminal, and that medical goals are redirected from treatment for a cure to supportive or comfort care.
Euthanasia remains a last resort (for example in the case of uncontrollable pain). Hospice care instead recognizes that death is a natural part of the cycle of life, not a failed medical event, and does not have to be feared or avoided. The focus is “intensive caring” instead of “intensive care”.
End-of-life care is almost always demanding. Hospice care is for the dying, distinct from geriatric or special needs care. For instance, a horse unable to rise on his own due to arthritis has special needs, but physiologically is not close to dying. You may be able to count the ribs on a skinny horse with a saggy back but he may nonetheless be well taken care of and content. Remember that elderly people and animals both tend to lose much of their body weight toward the end of life. This can happen even in the presence of a hearty appetite.
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old, are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt, or maimed are made whole and strong again. Just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing. They each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together...but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers.
Suddenly...he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster, and faster.
You have been spotted.
When you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face. Your hands again caress the beloved head. You look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then... you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.